The Liberal in the Red Hat

As a life-long liberal, I am concerned about liberals. I often hear how we strive to be tolerant and inclusive, but I am not witnessing this. If I had to evaluate liberalism, I would replace it with a series of disjointed boxes. Their only connection would be with their artificial alignment. They appear unified, but each focuses only on its own box.

Not long ago, I was present at a faculty meeting, and the topic was hate speech. One professor argued that if a person showed up with a Trump MAGA hat, they would not allow him to wear that cap. The professor said the hat would disrupt the class and make students feel uncomfortable. It would be a macroaggression.

Political office is a mess, from current events in Virginia to the toxic partisanship in D.C., yet I strongly disagreed. Our students and our faculty have protections under the First Amendment. It would be illegal to remove someone from a public college classroom because of what they are wearing, I argued. Unless he is privately chanting “build that wall, build that wall” or making a Nazi statement, he has just as much right to wear that shirt as a gay person can wear a rainbow shirt, or an African American can wear a “Black Lives Matter” shirt.

That scared me. As one that often writes on disturbing and inappropriate content, I know what it is like to get censured. I wrote a poem that addressed my past trauma through a speaker. I lost a childhood friend in a horrible school bus accident. Its purpose was to hold a mirror up to society and show all of us what we seldom do. That poem was banned by a social media platform that champions free speech for violating “community standards.” I wrote them back and said, “I hope you never experience what it’s like to have your tongue ripped out of your mouth.” That banning felt like assault to me. I am the liberal in the red hat.

I was being vulnerable. I was admitting to the darker more conflicting aspects of myself, but I also was a survivor of repeated trauma. I felt that because I was a man, my boyhood abuse did not matter. That is the message men get.  

 I then realized that we have no art in the United States when any form of art is censured. Art is not meant to be politically correct. Now, I was the enemy. Yet, I knew, as a professor in literature, that my readers needed a lesson in how to read literature. They were reactive, the possible catalysts for fake news. They became the self-righteous moral “social justice” crusaders with little regard to the poem’s true meaning.

What all of us have in common is that we are connected. I grew up so poor that I lived on hot dogs and fries for two years, often with no running water, and, at times, had no central heat in rural Western New York. I understand the anger the Trump voter feels. I try to understand what it’s like for my African American student to be a minority in America, whose cousin dies in her arms from a gunshot wound, and after 20 years of feminist study, even as an editor of a collection on women, what it means to be female in America. It’s hard for all of them, and if we listen to their stories, we will connect.

People care about what they care about. By nature, we don’t care about people unlike us, so if we mock the differences in us: a hat, skin color, gender, sex, or our struggles, demons, and mental illnesses. We are running from ourselves. We will make the others enemies. There is the saying I’ve heard, When good conquers evil, good becomes evil. We all suffer, but we suffer differently. The very heart of fundamentalism relies on the devaluation of human beings. If the United States is anything, at present, it is a bi-polar fundamentalist state.  For liberals, controlling speech will make us all better and happier. I see it as an assault on a democracy. In truth, free speech is the only pathway to continued democracy. As my conservative friend once put it, “Sometimes you have to put up with a little crap on your glasses.”

A Once Good Man Lost

Depressed Man Portrait

I was walking

Out for the first time

Since then

Since, I don’t know when

Feeling naked

Hearing “cho mo”*

Over and

Over again.

In there

Out here

Exposed;

There’s a list

You Looking?

Them exposed

I looking

I clicking

Walking quickly

Rapid breathing

Hear it?

It’s “cho mo”

Or is it

“no mo”

Who is he?

Or is it me?

I think

There’s one!

A distraction

Dance recital?

Possibly

My life

Flashes in

Front of me

Walking quickly

From her

From my past

From the looks

Noticing

Yet another

And another

And another

And another.

They are terrifying iridescence

In seeing them

a crime in only seeing.

I need no registry

A beautiful

Poison that

Kills when

Eyes only

Fall upon them

Five of them

In one mile

When all I did

Was clicked.

It’s life.

It’s a life.

On a cute little

List.

I take a taxi home

Where there were

Once my kids

Once my love

Once someone

Loved me.

Once on

a screen

I clicked.

Once I had a home

A job

A father

A Mother

A Family

Lost.

Two floors

Above

A family moved

The police informed me

With a warrant

Of course.

Lips quivering

Around the cold

Steel

Hands trembling

I click it.

The comments

Below the

Scattered vowels and consonants of me

Of what was more than

Anyone cares

To see

Was me.

It read,
“Thank heaven!
Let’s pray …

More will follow.”

A once good man lost.

*Child Molester (based on a true story)

A Conversation with God: From an Agnostic that Sometimes Prays

Dramatic nature background

[The following is a hologram of my imagination of what I believe to be brought on by migraines, creativity, or madness. My conversation with God is not to be misconstrued as anything close to faith, for I rarely believe in what is not there or deny in what is.]

The creator is often seen as being male and infinite, and to avoid confusion in such a gendered language as English, I will refer to God as God. God’s resume is very long, but one of God’s many accomplishments was the formation of this universe among the countless others. I cannot begin to tell you how honored I am that God agreed to do the following interview. To be so flawed and accepted by one so great, when clearly God has so many better and more faithful choices, leaves me so humbled that I must inscribe myself as “unworthy one.”

unworthy one: What is the meaning and purpose of life?

God: To open your eyes and to close them with a smile

unworthy one: Why is there such hate in this world?

God: Because there is much pain in this world

unworthy one: Why then is there pain like this?

God: misdirection

unworthy one: Do people have a chosen destiny?

God: yours?

unworthy: I want to write and write like hell but no one reads it. No one controls destiny?

God: write

unworthy one: Are we all misdirected?

God: “All” can be such a sin

unworthy one: what is the right faith?

God: That gives true hope

unworthy one: But many speak of the “Word of God” for example?

God: Not mine?

unworthy: Are men and women equal?

God: L-I-F-E is equal

unworthy: Why genocide, why World War II, why millions dead in Rwanda, why mass shootings, these crazy elections?

God: you become what you think

unworthy: why do people die?

God: Because people kill them

unworthy: They get disease and …

God: it’s a cycle … hate is not

unworthy: But why?

God: truth lies in those you trust … a week is 3 billion years … all in a time warp …

unworthy: Many will read this and say why did you speak with H-I-M and not those of faith?

God: because you spoke to me without a mask

unworthy: Any advice to the others?

God:  mercy is always worthy …

unworthy: Many people need you …

God: So do I.

unworthy: where are you?

God: In seeing the world, in seeing life differently, in seeing a setback as an opportunity, a disability as a gift, and riches as a curse; to see life, to smell it, taste it, to embrace what lives and mourn what has not, to see that when love conquers evil it may become so; evil follows goodness so. Twins at birth. Sometimes God can be the Devil, you know.  Evil is not Black or White; white is a color of life here and one of death over there. Black shows evil here and peace and new beginnings somewhere not yet here.

embrace life

love what you question

fear not what you know not

______

Here is the podcast of the interview.